Before the internet (yes, there was a time when the world wide web did not exist), most people got their information about how green card interviews work from two sources: (1) their friends and (2) movies. One of the most popular pre-internet immigration movies was, appropriately enough, Green Card.
In that movie, a woman played by Andie McDowell agrees to a sham marriage with a French character played by the amazing Gerard Depardieu. The marriage is one of convenience and, at least at first, is only entered into so that Depardieu’s character can get a green card. But as the movie continues, McDowell’s character finds herself actually falling in love with the big French oaf.
The movie contains several scenes of the “green card interview.” The tough-faced immigration officers split the pair up and ask them a series of questions designed to test whether the marriage is legitimate:
- Who sleeps on which side of the bed?
- What color is her toothbrush?
- What is his favorite thing to eat?
Questions like this are designed to test whether the couple really lives together and to see how well they actually know each other.
Now, in real life, questions of this sort are rather rare – at least in the St. Louis office. Each immigration office is different and my friend, Jennifer Ibanez Whitlock, says that in Boston (where she used to practice), the couples are routinely questioned individually. When I had a tough green card case in Baltimore, we also had a few questions like these. But these questions usually come up when the officer suspects immigration fraud.
The immigration office certainly has the right to inquire into the validity of the marriage. In doing so, the goal is not necessarily to violate your privacy, but rather to make sure that the marriage is legitimate. In fact, USCIS officers have been known to make spot checks at the address listed on the application and to inspect the home for signs of a shared life.
The stakes are obviously high because a mistake in answering might make the difference between obtaining that green card and getting deported.
I won’t give away the film’s ending because it is a cute movie that you should watch if immigration is a topic that interests you (which it probably is if you are reading this).
This movie popped into my brain this week because my wife bought me a new pillow. And I really don’t like the pillow that my wife bought me. The pillow is way too stuffy and thick. When I complained about the pillow, my wife said, “well, I bought you the pillow for people that sleep on their back.”
Amany and I are approaching our 15-year wedding anniversary. In all of those years, I have probably slept on my back twice (while fighting a head cold). I hate sleeping on my back because when I fall asleep on my back, I end up having a dream of falling.
I said to her, “good thing we aren’t going to a green card interview, because we would have flunked the ‘does your husband sleep on his back or his tummy question.’” I would have been deported for sure, all because of the silly pillow.
The immigration lesson, of course, is to be well prepared for the green card interview. Spending time with the couple before the interview, going over the types of questions at the interview, is one of our most important roles as immigration advocates.
We may have to add “does your husband sleep on his back” inquiry to our interview preparation list.
Thanks for reading.
PS – My wife offered to take the pillow back, but I’m sure it will be fine.
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